Come, Let Us Reason Together

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:11)

"The Scientific Method" is a set of guidelines developed during the Renaissance to help scientists avoid subjective reasoning, which often led to many incorrect assumptions.  The goal was to eliminate subjectivity and maintain objectivity, to allow more accurate conclusions to be drawn from the facts of the scientific world.  Before the advent of the scientific method, evidence was frequently dismissed or misconstrued because conclusions were drawn before adequate experimentation had been done.  This hasty method of reasoning is also called inductive reasoning because the previously drawn conclusions tend to induce or prompt the evidence brought forth and the reasoning employed.

Some of the more famous beliefs that were adopted according to inductive reasoning were that the earth was flat and that it was the center of the universe.  These kinds of beliefs were later proven to be false through evidence and experimentation.

To ensure that conclusions followed evidence rather than created it, the following steps were developed under The Scientific Method:

  1. Observe the facts and evidence
  2. Organize and analyze the data
  3. Hypothesize (i.e., develop a tentative theorey)
  4. Experiment and test (i.e., does the hypothesis "hold water"?)
  5. Draw conclusions

Note that under this Scientific Method, careful organization and study of the information gathered must precede a consistent, reliable conclusion.  This is called deductive reasoning because the conclusion follows, or is deduced (or reasoned), from the evidence.  It is very different from the inductive method, where conclusions were made and acted upon before data is analyzed and experimentation is conducted.

Reasoning and Scripture

We may fall into the same trap of using inductive reasoning when we approach the Bible.  It is very easy to begin working from a "foregone conclusion" (such as, "When babies die, they go to heaven") and then build evidence and explanations based upon that assumption.  We may see this when other Bible students who may disagree with us on basic doctrines struggle to explain difficult passages.  Evidence is dismissed because it doesn't suit their preconceived notions.  Almost inevitably, evidence for such incorrect views can be put forward.  But it usually isn't valid evidence because it is either out of context, misunderstood, or founded on popular human tradition.  Such conclusions are frequently based on inductive reasoning.

Bible students who use inductive reasoning, rather than deductive reasoning, are very difficult to reason with.  It is almost impossible to get them to rethink their method of reasoning, since it appears to them they have Scriptural support for their particular view.  The problem can be summed up like this...  Once a belief has been accepted both intellectually and emotionally as truth, any challenge to that cherished tenet is liable to almost automatic rejection.  The very human desire of all of us to conform to the group which has nourished us and the lifetime patterns of thought learned from sincere teachers we trusted and respected tends to create barriers which secure us against all objections and can blind us to the most obvious truths.  When those deeply held beliefs are challenged, we naturally feel threatened and defensive.

Source: Shofar - Issue 2